Erosion Control March/April 2017 : Page 13

up a continent to westward expansion and the consequences that have resulted. Our own particular journey transformed from documenting a “barometer of envi-ronmental change” to one of connecting young people that we met at airports, schools, museums, and reservations to the environments in which they lived. Our scientists and pilots all bought into this evolving emphasis. There are modern soil surveys for most of the counties in the US. These surveys—produced by the US Depart-ment of Agriculture—document the boundaries of soil associations and the chemical, physical, and engineering properties of soil. A soil survey can tell you where to build your house —or perhaps more importantly, where not to—and where to put your septic tank. There’s even information on the A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. -Franklin Delano Roosevelt erodibility of particular soils, the kinds of native plants that can be found on them, and what kind of yields can be expected from agricultural crops grown in them—a lot of information. I recently obtained a US Army Corps of Engineers document that recorded the suspended sediment at various sampling points along the Missouri River from Rulo, NE, to its confluence with the Mississippi River at St. Louis—a distance of about 495 river miles. One year’s worth of data —columns upon columns of numbers— took up around 250 printed pages and illustrated that the great river of Lewis and Clark contributes more than 70% of the sediment load in the Mississippi. Who wouldn’t get excited about that? Well, the truth is, most people would be about as thrilled to have to interpret this document as they would be to get a root canal . . . without anesthetic. For this reason, the Flight of Discovery decided to illuminate the importance of soils by hanging them on an historic framework—the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Rob and Andrew McGann and my son, Lee, took soil samples all along the trail, and today we have a collection of more than 100 1-inch clear plastic tubes from such diverse historical sites as: • Fort Clatsop, OR, where the Corps of Discovery spent the cold and wet winter of 1805, trading but-tons from their clothes to the local Indian tribes for dog meat because they were sick of eating salmon • Weippe Prairie, ID, where Lewis and Clark were rescued by the Flathead Indians aft er nearly starv-ing to death in their transit of the snows in the Bitterroots • Lemhi Pass at the Continental Divide, where—gazing west-ward—Lewis fi rst understood that there would be no easy Northwest Passage to the Orient, when he beheld miles of snow-capped peaks between the Corps and the Pacifi c Ocean instead of a great river. EROSION CONTROL 13 The author with a soil sample from the tradi-tional Mandan garden near Newtown, ND. Amy Mossett, executive director of the Northern Plains Heritage Foundation, is seen tending the garden. Brenda Endicott holds water samples col-lected from the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers while her husband, Western Chapter IECA president Jeff Endicott, cradles a few of the soil samples collected on the Flight of Discovery expeditions from 2004 to 2006. MARCH/APRIL 2017


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